Meredith Mc Kinney's excellent new translation also includes notes and an introduction exploring the spiritual and historical background of the works.
Chomei was born into a family of Shinto priests in around 1155, at at time when the stable world of the court was rapidly breaking up. He probably became a monk in his late twenties, and was also noted as a calligrapher.
According to legend, the monk Yoshida Kenko lived in a hermitage inside a Zen temple called Jyo–Gyo Ji (modern-day Yokohama City).
Kenko wrote during the Muromachi and Kamakura periods.
There are several popular classics, for example, the works of Shakespeare, which people want to read over and over, like a cow chewing its cud.
Kenko’s work has been “chewed” over and over by the Japanese people throughout the centuries.The consistent theme of the essays is “the universal principle of change.” Tsurezuregusa is also acclaimed for its treatment of aesthetics.For Kenko, beauty implied impermanence; the more short-lived a moment or object of beauty, the more precious he considered it to be.Kenko, however, displays a fascination with more earthy matters in his collection of anecdotes, advice and observations.From ribald stories of drunken monks to aching nostalgia for the fading traditions of the Japanese court, Essays in Idleness is a constantly surprising work that ranges across the spectrum of human experience.The Tsurezuregusa was already popular in the fifteenth century, and was considered a classic from the seventeenth century onward.It is part of the curriculum in modern Japanese high schools, as well as internationally in some International Baccalaureate Diploma Program schools.After the seventeenth century, Tsurezuregusa became a part of the curriculum in the Japanese educational system, and Kenko's views have held a prominent place in Japanese life ever since.Turezuregusa is one of the three representative Japanese classics, together with Hojoki by Kamo no Chomei (1212), and The Pillow Book (Makura no soshi) by Sei Shonagon(990).He became an important though minor poet of his day, and at the age of fifty, withdrew from the world to become a tonsured monk. Today he is remembered for his wise and witty aphorisms, ' Essays in Idleness'.Meredith Mc Kinney, who has also translated Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book for Penguin Classics, is a translator of both contemporary and classical Japanese literature.